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Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  2,767 ratings  ·  281 reviews
No one in the twentieth century had a greater impact on world history than Deng Xiaoping. And no scholar is better qualified than Ezra Vogel to disentangle the contradictions embodied in the life and legacy of China's boldest strategist--the pragmatic, disciplined force behind China's radical economic, technological, and social transformation. ...more
Hardcover, 928 pages
Published September 26th 2011 by Belknap Press
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Continuity as Illusion

I question whether even the Chinese understand China. Perhaps because if they did the result might be mass suicide.

Much better, like the Catholic Church, to re-shape the meaning of words to the needs of the day while keeping the form constant. A sort of rationality can thus be maintained within the most irrational of situations. Then again, perhaps that is exactly what they’re up to: ‘The corrupt pope I’d dead, let us make him a saint.’

Deng's practical repudiation of the M
Brett C
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asian-studies
This was a very extensive and lengthy account of Deng Xiaoping's transformation of the Peoples' Republic of China. It was full of details and well researched yet was very readable and not boring. This typical biography follows the Paramount Leader from his humble beginnings to his death at 92 years old. The author outlines how his policies (both domestic and international) set the stage for China's success. Under Deng the country outgrew its backwardness and transformed into a major player on th ...more
Zach Zhao
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
No country underwent greater changes in the second half of the twentieth century than China and no man was more responsible for these changes than the subject of this incredible biography. Deng Xiaoping - the architect of modern China - received both the respect and the criticism that he deserved in Vogel's well-researched book. The author skillfully tied the ups and downs of Deng's personal life with those of the country that Deng so deeply loved and by doing so, crafted a piece of work that is ...more
Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, by Ezra Vogel, is a fabulously written biography of one of modern China's most well regarded politicians. Deng Xiaoping was a fascinating character, who put the framework in place that China has used to modernize and bring millions of people out of poverty. He redesigned China's political landscape, radically altered its Marxist economy and put the necessary reforms in place to put China on the path to its current position in the world. Even so, his ...more
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
When considering the modern history of China and to understand the current, modern China, we need not look at Mao Zedong, but at Deng Xiaoping, the architect of modern China. To understand China is to understand Deng Xiaoping.

In his book, Ezra Vogel gives a detailed account of the life of Deng Xiaoping. He starts with his early life, how he became a communist, his rise and downfalls during Mao Zedong and ultimately his rise after the death of Mao Zedong and the transformation of Mao's Chiona to
Aug 31, 2012 rated it liked it
It wasn't a easy read. Not because the writer was not talented. In contrast this book provided a fascinating account of Deng's life.

The event leading up to the tragic Tiananmen square was covered in details. The things I learned about Deng from this book: He doesn't like to talk, he's short, he was a oversea student in France, he suffered three purges under Mao, one of his sons was crippled due to Cultural revolution.

Deng was a ultimate political survivor. What ultimate helped Deng was Mao beli
Betty Ho
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you are going to read one book about modern China, this is the one. Here's why:

1) To understand China nowadays, one must understand Deng Xiaoping. Perhaps, this is the only book in the market with such detailed account (around 900 pages) of how/ why China was transformed (both in a good and bad way) under Deng’s leadership. However, those who are looking for untold stories of Deng will be disappointed.

2) Most western-authored books about China have their underlying question of “China – what’
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Tremendously insightful bio of probably the most important figure of the 20th century in terms of long term impact: Den Xiaoping. Very little about him is part of common knowledge outside China and this a great detailed account of his early life but with most detail devoted to the late Mao era and then his surprising take over of China and his profound strategic redirection of its whole future course. Incredibly well researched and a compelling narrative with lots of analytical insight as to why ...more
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the longest book I've ever read, but recommend it to anyone that wants to learn more about China, or who has a general interest in history or business. Personally, it has given me a lens through which I can better interpret modern China.

It paints a balanced and nuanced picture of modern Chinese history, and is a story of extreme pragmatism, making difficult decisions, and masterful political navigation both domestically and internationally.

At a macro level, I think business an
Steven Peterson
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful biography of Deng Xiaoping. There is more emphasis on the later as opposed to earlier years of his life. He was a survivor, having been purged twice by Chairman Mao Zedong. But Mao was not to be finished with Deng--keeping him on the backburner in case he needed his skills later on.

The book provides background for his ultimate leadership of China. Deng was "taken down" during the Cultural Revolution, an enormous upheaval of Chinese society orchestrated by Mao. Deng and his family wer
Jeremy Young
Mar 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
5/5 - "Did any other leader in the twentieth century do more to improve the lives of so many? Did any other twentieth-century leader have such a large and lasting influence on world history?" Vogel tells us probably not.

I really enjoyed Vogel's account of Deng Xiaoping's 92 years on earth. In many ways, the story of Deng is the story of Modern China. When I think of China, I always think of how a tiny fishing village like Shenzhen can become a sprawling megacity dubbed the "Silicon Valley of Ha
Alvin Ting
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is for sure the longest book I have ever read.

As Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew once described Deng Xiaoping as "less than five feet tall, but a giant among men" credits what a great leader he was. This book gives a very insightful biography of his life. One of the brightest and youngest student to be sent to France to work part time and attend French university part time to study. During his journey, he saw white people treating Chinese in their own country, as if they were slaves.
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: annual-faborites
"No one in the twentieth century had a greater impact on world history than Deng Xiaoping."

This was my first deep encounter, with Deng Xiaoping. And so it's hard for me to really disentangle this book, which was phenomenal, from the man it is about. At once a hero, a tyrant, a pragmatist and a utopian, Deng Xiaoping had the traits of a great man, and this book was the first time that I really, truly went back to thinking...maybe Carlyle was right. Maybe there really are human beings who transcen
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Ezra Vogel wrote a really really long biography of Deng Xiaoping, the second Emperor of the Communist Dynasty. It's massive, packed with detail, enormously interesting, and more than a bit scary. So Deng Xiaoping was one of those elemental badass guys who's a lot of fun to read about, and very scary when you realize that real people had to deal with him and the consequences of his actions. Much like his old boss Mao Zedong, that way, except that where Mao was more of a crazy mad warrior poet dic ...more
Washington Post
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ezra Vogel’s masterful history of China’s reform era is perhaps the clearest account of the revolution that turned China from a totalitarian backwater into the power it has become today. John Pomfret, a former China correspondent for The Post reviewed this biography for Book World, which made our top 10 list for 2011.

Read Pomfret's review here:
Jonathan Mckay
History's Finest Bureaucrat

Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.

Amazing that there isn't more written about Deng, doubly amazing that this serves as the authoritative account both in english *and* in Chinese (see: Chinese Goodreads Link) minus a full retelling of June 4th 1989.

More to come.
Meihan Liu
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you like On China, you will like this one. Sympathetic, understanding, starry-eyed.
RS Rook
Apr 20, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Really a stunning biography all things considered. Deng presents a unique challenge to the biographer as a man who often played things pretty close to the chest. Vogel overcomes this limitation by sparsely referencing Deng's personal life, but taking a great deal of time to lay out the complex internal politics and geopolitical situation of China during Deng's rise to power and during his tenure as head of state. Without either condemning or adulating Deng, Vogel provides the context, leaving th ...more
Alex MacMillan
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
My appreciation of this book, one of the best I read this year, is well expressed in the meme format. (broken link)

To me, the only major downside of this book was that after having read Mao: The Unknown Story and Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard, I was surprised that the author downplayed some of the nastier elements of Mao and Deng's CCP. For example, the One-Child Policy initiated by Deng's administration, one of the cruelest and most significant social policies in human history, gets two p
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chinese-history
"As long as it catches mice, it doesn't matter if the cat is black or white." Thus Deng Xiaoping on the centrality of utility in his great goal and achievement: laying the foundation of the opening and modernization of China's economy. This process, a world-historical event whose effects we are just starting to feel, is Deng's lasting legacy to the Chinese people and the world. Professor Vogel traces the life and times of this remarkable leader who survived three purges but always returned to th ...more
Apr 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing, incredibly detailed. Priceless knowledge on how Deng Xioping guided China from a backward socialist nation to a global power with a modernising economy.
Rob Hocking
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is another incredible book, and I'd like to begin by listing its awards:

Winner of Lionel Gelber Prize
Finalist, Nation Book Critics Circle Awards, Biography
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
A Wall Street Journal Book of the Year
An Economist Best Book of the Year
A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

with this many awards, it's a good guess that it's going to be a good book.

It's also an incredibly massive book. 714 pages, plus another 150 page
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I finished reading this book this morning feeling quite satisfied. Many points of my curiosity about more recent Chinese history had been addressed by Ezra Vogel in ‘Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China’. This well-researched book covers extremely well Chinese leadership from 1969 to 1992. When one thinks of the situation in China in 1969, and compares it to the situation in 1992, there is a natural curiosity about how this remarkable evolution of the governing processes of China took p ...more
Maksim Karpitski
Jul 23, 2022 rated it did not like it
Dropped the book when Soviet New Economic Policy was called national instead of new. It might seem minor and relatively unrelated to the main subject, but it's also basic knowledge. I'm not trusting a writer with more complex stuff when they can't even manage this much. ...more
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The list of people who have arguably changed the world in the 20th century through their individual action is a short one.Deng Xiaoping should be on such a list. When he came to power after multiple purges under Mao, China was a strange, hostile, and backward totalitarian state, where the ruler tried for industrial development through backyard steel manufacture and tried to improve agriculture through mass action against the birds (with a resulting spike in insect activity). Today, China is the ...more
Barack Liu
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing

129-Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China-Ezra Vogel-History-2011
2017/07/ 22
2020/05/2 1

——When reading biographies, I often like to ask myself 3 questions. If I live in a different place with him, at his historical node and historical position, what will I do? If I feel that I am not as good as him, then in what areas am I still inadequate, so that I am not as good as him? If I think I can do better than him, is it because I overlooked certain factors that I underestimated the com
Tair Kuanyshev
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's not a book only about Deng Xiaoping. History of China, especially in the second part of the 20th century transformed from a poor country to the second biggest economy nowadays. Communist party leadership in China is almost same with Soviet one, which has been ruled our country for 70 years. But several advantages of China and wise and foresight vision of top people in China helped to move ahead the economy except of collapsing as it happenned in Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
The contribut
Tulga G
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In my understanding, Den Xiaoping had made the greatest contribution for the modern China because China's extraordinary rapid growth in technology, education and economy began under his leadership. He had guided China through a difficult transition from a backward, closed, poor, overly rigid socialist nation to a global power with a modernizing economy.
Deng had his own vision and pragmatic approaches about making China rich and powerful, and he reached his goals by building the right fundemantal
Dulguun Gantumur
Oct 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Amazing read. A must read for understanding all the events during the Deng Xiaoping Era, and even the late period of Mao's rule. The book goes into every little detail and covers it clearly, and it makes very logical transition from topic to topic and event to event.
The book's way of ordering chapters was a little confusing at first because they each focused on a specific topic and covered it in detail rather than in a strictly chronological manner. But I think this actually helps the book be m
Aravindh C.
Feb 13, 2022 rated it really liked it
Good read on Deng Xiaoping, and a must read to understand modern day China. The economic development parts were a breeze and felt like competence porn. Also, I understand Cixin Liu's scifi trilogy, Three Body Problem trilogy more after reading this for some reason, which makes sense considering Liu grew up in Deng era.

Some parts, such as on the Tainanment Square massacre, Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam war etc felt one sided. I guess because it's about a Chinese leader, you get to hear their
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He was born to a Jewish family in 1930 in Delaware, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1950 and received his Ph.D. from the Department of Social Relations in 1958 from Harvard. While attending Ohio Wesleyan, Vogel was a member of the Beta Sigma Tau fraternity (that later merged with the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity). [1]

He then went to Japan for two years to study the Japanese langua

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62 likes · 5 comments
“If there is one leader to whom most Chinese people express gratitude for improvements in their daily lives, it is Deng Xiaoping. Did any other leader in the twentieth century do more to improve the lives of so many? Did any other twentieth-century leader have such a large and lasting influence on world history?” 6 likes
“it doesn't matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches the mouse” 3 likes
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